There are so many questions that arise when thinking about starting a family. How should I do it? Should we adopt or do surrogacy? What age child should I look for? Then, when you have your child, a whole new set of questions arise.
LGBT families have fewer resources when it comes to getting answers to their questions, but one free forum aims to pair experts with those struggling with issues like money, work and the legal system. The Family Equality Council’s "Ask the Experts" forum answers user’s questions about financial planning, how to form a family, youth empowerment and legal issues. There is even a section where grandparents offer advice.
“As the country continues to change in how our families are seen, respected and protected, having a resource that is driven by the real and current needs of parents and their children is critical,” says Gabriel Blau, executive director of the Family Equality Council. “Wherever I go I field questions about creating and protecting families, 'Ask the Experts' is a means of addressing those questions in a responsible way.”
Ask the Experts was started in 2009 as a way to publiclyanswer questions that the council was getting privately from its constituents. The forum answers approximately eight questions a month across the various categories.
Anne Parsons, an immigration lawyer in Minneapolis, fields questions on youth empowerment. Parsons grew up with three dads — her parents divorced when she was 9, her father subsequently came out as gay, and then her parents got into new relationships.
“I grew up in the suburbs — lots of white picket fences - and didn't know anyone who had a family that looked like mine until late high school or college,” she says. “Gay issues were still very new in the 1990s when I was growing up, and there was not much support to help my family navigate the negative cultural messages we were receiving at that time. If I had had these resources as a kid, or even just been aware that there were other people in my position, I would not have struggled as much with cultural stigma and feeling 'different.' I would have felt a lot more comfortable sharing my story.”
The Family Equality Council periodically hosts Parent Cafes, which are live or in-person events where some of the experts discuss a topic and offer advice.
Kim Bergman, a licensed psychologist and co-owner of surrogacy agency Growing Generations, is a forum expert offering advice on forming a family. She and her wife have two teenage daughters, so she speaks from experience.
“I have been involved in the family building world since the mid '80s, and as a lesbian mom myself, I am personally and professionally invested in people who want to become parents being able to,” she says “There are myriad issues to deal with from the wish to become parents, paths to parenthood, dealing with legal, medical, psychological issues, how to create a healthy family, and developmental issues and questions once families are formed. 'Ask the Experts' provides a wonderful way for people to put a toe in without having to jump full in, get free important advice, and begin the amazing adventure called parenthood.”
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